A 21-year-old German national who threatened to kill his former Belgian girlfriend by trying to drive off a Central Otago cliff has been jailed for nine months.

Jan Falke appeared in the High Court at Dunedin after pleading guilty to dangerous driving, threatening to kill, assaulting a female, drink-driving and being an unlicensed driver.

The court heard that Falke had threatened to kill himself, after discovering his former partner had been in a relationship with another man.

Last November, he convinced the victim to get into the car, and drove towards a barrier near a cliff overlooking Lake Dunstan while telling her he was going to kill her.

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The car crashed into the barrier, before Falke pushed her head against the passenger window.

The victim managed to escape the car and was rescued by a passing car.

Crown prosecutor Craig Power said a prison sentence was appropriate even though it was his first offence.

Defence counsel Roger Eagles said Falke had been willing to undergo restorative justice, but this was declined.

Justice Rachel Dunningham convicted Falke, and sentenced him to nine months in prison, and disqualified him from driving for 12 months.

Falke will be deported after serving his jail term.